The Santa Ana Winds

Raina von Waldenburg


1.

nce a year they come, swirling hot and dry into your heart, for five days you can't sleep, eat, or love, you yell for no apparent reason until glasses shatter behind cabinets, you can't sleep, and when you do, you can't dream, for five days, five nights they rip through the trees, tearing leaves and lovers apart, swirling the green and dark green, the deep sweet purple of hearts into a lunatic swirl, where all you can do is hold tight with one hand whatever is closest, a bed post, your dear friend. Until one night, you find yourself naked and crying, your lover's gone with the car, it's quiet, and they've left, the Santa Ana winds, cackling hoarsely across the hills to sleep, sated, in the desert.

I'd never been to LA. And I'd never seen two lovers so ragingly in love, kissing in restaurants, she pulling a breast from her blouse, her brown nipple flickering in the candle light, he singing with her in the car, wearing her panties on his head, the windows open, wide open, too enticing, really. They had forgotten what time of the year it was.

It was late when I arrived. We sat on a steep hill, where an arthritic tree wearing nothing but orange flowers struggled up the path to the dining room, where we ate with glass walls around us, overlooking a lighted pool, LA twinkling in the valley below. Wineglasses were shattering in the house next door, but we didn't hear them, Albanini was being played and we were eating our salad by candlelight, toasted spaghetti sticks poking out of the spinach like a Japanese hairdo.

I had never met him, or his daughter. Six year old Jessica who told me in deep earnest that she was in fact half cat, couldn't wait until her mother got her some cat powder to get rid of the fleas. The winds were picking up and she was getting restless, kept scratching her ankles. Paul put her to bed and didn't hear the rapping against the glass because he was reading her a story. I guess the old tree had made it to the house, one crooked finger knuckling against the glass, rapping against it, but too late. We had put the dishes away and gone outside, around, to the other side of the house, where we had taken off our clothes, Krystyna and I, and had jumped into the pool.

When Paul found us, two nymphs floating on a huge plastic lily pad, waves were rippling quickly across the pool. He undressed and dove between us, hello, I thought, my skin touching his, how lovely to meet you. The moon was being blown across the sky. We floated and watched as stars unloosed themselves and dropped silently into the pool around us.

In the morning two coyotes wait to be fed. Dropped here in this garden, where birds and squirrels and hummingbirds hop about, where orange and pink flowers explode from the trees like fireworks in slow motion.

Does Paul remember the Santa Ana winds are coming? He drives Jessica far away to be with her mother.

The palm trees are swishing. The palm trees are swishing.


2.

It's hard to breathe. The wind snaps in hot, dry spurts. Our lungs, hard and tight, are like raisins.

Krystyna tells me -- as we're running on her mountain-- the yellow desert mountain behind her house-- when she first moved to LA, she used to run up this hill every day with one thought in her mind:

I want to fall in love, be in a mo-vie, and ive in one of those houses with a pool.


3.

I hated LA until I went to visit. Sunny day after sunny day, they walk around in paradise, cobalt sky and soft orange flowers, the Garden of God, where He grows them and plucks them, golden and ripe, the people of LA. You can smell the perfume of Heaven in the ocean, wave after lapping wave, amassing all of these people, gently, sweetly, until one day a giant wave will swallow them, rolling like one salty blue carpet, the ocean will usher them home, the children of God, the tree children and squirrel children, and the bunches and bunches of flowers. When LA slips into the ocean, those of us in Arizona strolling the beach will hear fireworks and laughter on the horizon. Heaven will be stuffed with colors.

Plates are rattling. They are drying on the drying rack, and they are rattling.


4.

My heart leaps like a fish, on Malibu Beach, as the three of us sit in a caf overlooking the sea at sunset. Spectacular. Palm trees on the cliff are swaddled in golden light, and the mounds of black rock near the shore look like a family of whales floating in the ocean. The sun cracks open like an egg and spills slowly over the sea. The family of rocks, gathered for their evening meal, wait... open their black throats, swallow the last drop of sun. We sip our wine as we watch the sky turn into wine. We eat the fruits of the sea on a pizza, talk about sex, as the moon slides like a thumbnail up into our sky.

The people at the next table give us dirty looks, as we lick the cheesecake from our forks, and chat about sopping wet pussies and big tit, small tit, tit tit tit. Krystyna wants me to lean over and kiss her on the mouth-- just to annoy our neighbors.

As the stars are sprinkling into the ocean, I say that if I die tomorrow on the plane I won't be sad. There is a great silence.

And they burst out laughing.


5.

She dug herself a little hole. A little potty in the sand, Krystyna sat her tiny buns down in it and took a pee. She didn't want to pee in the ocean and get wet, swim in the swirling seaweed stew, like Paul and me, the brave ones, brave, that is, until I got pummeled by a nasty little wave.

I got thrown onto the hard sandy floor, onto my head, bone ground into sand, hair and teeth into a fine white grit, with her great blue pestar, she pulverized me into her mortal till I was not more than paste, salted and rolled to shore by the white hands of froth.

I was so shook up and insulted I left, I left and walked up on the sand to join Krystyna, who had covered up her pee hole, and was now eating an apple.

Paul walked up from the ocean, bedecked in seaweed, isn't he sweet, she said, isn't he just like a little boy?

The Pacific is little sister to the Atlantic. She's impatient, she slaps and sucks, sucks everything like a hard piece of candy, she pops it out of her mouth, and sucks it back in, she can't wait to swallow it, she's dying to chew it and swallow it, the Pacific wants her coast, she wants it, she wants her shoreline, she's restless and young , and she's got a sweet, hard tooth.


6.

All of their money went into the movie. Paul, uptight, drove to town this morning to sell his Rolex watch.

Last night they made up, fought, and again tonight, they fought in the middle of the night. I thought it was over when Paul came naked to the door and stuck his pinkie finger out to her. She lifted her pinkie from across the room, but neither moved from his place. Trees were bending at the waist outside, the small white flowers fluttering like crazy, and with a sigh, Krystyna got up from her chair, moved towards him, her pinkie up. But she stopped before she got to the door. He would have to move into the room to meet her. And he did. They locked pinkies and hugged. I thought I caught the female coyote watching this. But it was a mirage.

This morning she's screaming, "let me go, you're hurting me!" She's shrieking and I can't see what's going on because I'm waiting beside the car, all of my bags hanging off of my shoulders.

Has he completely lost his fucking mind? I imagine her being beaten, being thrown into furniture, being shattered to bits in that lunatic house.

I wait for him to throw her against the hard stone floor and smack her on the head until her eyes turn white like milk.

Krystyna comes to the car panting and heaving and crying. Tonight she will pack her bags and leave him. She will go to Spain. He will smash a blue glass against the kitchen floor.

She can't take it anymore, she says. She drives like a lunatic, down the twisted road, telling me how he is driving her insane.


7.

The last I remember of this trip is the garden of oz. A yellow path garnished with roses, leads to a grove of mosaics: thousands of pieces of glass, porcelain, jewels, small toys, colorful broken up plates, and hanging things. A crystal garden and a garden of angels, a wind sculpture to celebrate the wind, a flock of origami birds dangling from a purple pole, and, at the top of the steep, glittering garden, a dream catcher.

Things are written on plates, like "peace begins in a garden" and "take only from this garden what you give back to it" and "sitting place for lost souls". We sat there.

Behind giant leaves, a white stone angel leaned over to hush us up, looking nearly into our eyes with his own two inlaid rubies.

As the last wisps of the Santa Ana Winds whistled through the dream catcher, Krystyna, crying softly, said if she were to live her life over again, she would...

sing as if she'd never been heard dance as if no one could see her, love as if she'd never been hurt.

Copyright CrossConnect, Inc. 1996

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